Disaster always brings out the idiots
It is sad that every time there is a natural disaster, some idiots will use it to try to score political/ideological points for some pet cause. In that vein we have seen things like religious zealots saying that Aids was God’s revenge against gays, anti-Americans saying that last December’s tsunami was the result of a secret undersea US nuclear test, and now environmental extremists (another form of religious zealots, but I digress) saying that global warming is causing an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes, in particular Katrina. The common thread here is the suspension of disbelief on the part of the idiot in favor of the dogmatic assertion of what the given idiot takes as articles of faith.
The current round of idiots includes Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Boston Globe columnist Ross Gelbspan and German environmental minister Jurgen Tritten, part of a cacophony of wacky advocacy that will continue for quite a while. They have disgustingly chosen to exploit the death and carnage to advance their pet cause, the reduction of greenhouse gases, in particular CO2. The most high-profile proposal, the Kyoto Protocol, has already been rejected by the Senate by a 99-0 vote and was not supported by either Presidents Bush or Clinton, with good reason – it requires massive reductions in energy use which would cripple our future economic growth and devastate future employment levels in order to reduce surface warming by a few tenths of one degree from the level that it is guesstimated to be a century in the future.
The truth is that Katrina has zero to do with global warming. It results from natural forces which have been unleashed repeatedly for millennia and which humans have no ability to control – we neither cause it nor can we fix it. Hurricane expert William Gray of Colorado State has been much quoted the last couple of days, but his points and the historical data bear repeating.
- The number of hurricanes striking the US has not been increasing. Since 1850 (when records begin) the decades with the highest numbers of hurricanes have been 1941-50, 1881-90, 1891-1900 and 1911-20. The year with the greatest number of hurricanes was 1886. While the 2001-10 decade is on pace to finish above the historical average, it follows a run of five straight decades that were below the historical average, even as the world was heating up slightly.
- The severity of hurricanes striking the US has not been increasing. The peak for major hurricanes (categories 3, 4, 5) came in the 1931-1960 period, with only 1891-1900 matching the low total for those decades. Again, this decade projects to be above average but it follows a run of three below average decades preceded by an average decade. Of the five most destructive storms in the last century, only one (1992’s Andrew) occurred after 1950.
- Things are no different worldwide (the complaint is, after all, of global warming), as the number of annual cyclones steadily fluctuates between 80 and 100. The current active period in the Atlantic is matched by declines elsewhere, even as the declines in the Atlantic from 1970-94 were matched by increases elsewhere. Technically the phenomenon is “a quasi-cyclic multi-decade regime that alternates between active and quiet phases” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- The United Nations Environment Programme of the World Meteorological Organization weighs in with this: "Reliable data…since the 1940s indicate that the peak strength of the strongest hurricanes has not changed, and the mean maximum intensity of all hurricanes has decreased." [emphasis mine]
Bottom line, we have a group of religious fanatics either ignoring and/or lying about scientific evidence in order to score cheap political points, over the corpses and devastation lining the Gulf Coast. Shameful, despicable, but since we have seen similar behavior recently at Walter Reed Hospital, sadly not so unusual these days.